20 December 2007

Home for the holidays

‘Home’ has become such a scattered,
damaged, various concept in our present travails.

From "At the auction of the ruby slippers"
by Salman Rushdie

No, I am not catching a plane at the last minute to visit my family, my beloved family, in the warmer (everything is relative) Guatemala, my motherland. Neither have I bought a "home" a marketing term for a "house" (Aeronica, the Nicaraguan national airline, had a nice slogan: "Your origin, your destiny". Another great example of the marketing of this "blessed word") . (Un)fortunately I have not found or outbid for the ruby slippers either (more on this below). What I am doing is making a conscious decision of staying home. Settling down is a phrase that comes to my mind, though not in its common use. The Spanish term "sentar cabeza" literally means "to seat your head down". That is what I am doing, putting my head on the ground and calling whatever piece of ground I am standing in HOME.

Home is a high commodity. It trades at inflated prices particularly around the end of the Gregorian calendar year. After getting my citizenship in 2005 I decided to visit my family as soon as work let me. I compared ticket prices for traveling at the end of December, against traveling in February, for Reading Week. The ticket was a third cheaper for Reading Week (OK, it was approx $400 less but 1/3 sounds more dramatic). In that time of my life, coincidentally, I was still saying "home" to refer to my motherland, little did I know that I was near the end of a period of denial of my Guatemalan identity.

Thus, becoming a Canadian citizen started a struggle within myself about my newly acquired dual citizenship, and thus the emergence of an authentic mixed identity. I haven't been introduced to terms as Native Informant or Migrant Hybrid yet, but events would unfold during 2006, after my visit to Guatemala, that will lead me to the changes that occurred in 2007. I think right now that in February of 2006 was my last trip home to Guatemala. Last August I went to my dear "country of origin", where I do feel at home. I decided to start calling it my motherland, "mi matria", because it conveys the welcoming attitude of a mother, of my mother, towards me.

During Spring and Summer of this year I started to play with the idea of the ruby slippers. Where would I end up if I put them on (they would look cute on me, wouldn't they?) and say those magic words "There is no place like home"? Would I end up like some Star Trek transporter mishap, my particles scattered all over the universe? Would I end up in someone's arms? Would I implode in my own self absorption? I have no answer yet. Must of the people on my blogroll share this conflict with me one way or the other. We have left parts of our heart spread in different parts of the world. We have crossed borders, inside or outside our countries, for different reasons and stay longer than the length of a vacation or a work contract or a study period. We have invested our emotions and thoughts about these multiple cities, provinces, lands and nations and their relationship towards our selves.

One of these fellow migrants who actually returned to the motherland, Ronald, my dearest friend and dialog partner, directed me towards a short tale by Rushdie found on "East, West" that also made reference to the ruby slippers. I recently read it. I reproduce below the paragraph that starts with the sentence I chose for my epigraph:

‘Home’ has become such a scattered, damaged, various concept in our present travails. There is so much to yearn for. There are so few rainbows any more. How hard can we expect even a pair of magic shoes to work? They promised to take us home, but are metaphors of homeliness comprehensible to them, are abstractions permissible? Are they literalists, or will they permit us to redefine the blessed word. p. 93

Home as an abstraction... not as a place... not as some walls and a roof (and hopefully a fireplace) with some doors and a lock. Not as a land, the land where our umbilical cord is buried, or where we grew up. Safe haven, security base are terms borrowed from attachment theory that are intimately related to home. And yet, the idea of this security base implies exploration. What home doesn't know is that exploration will lead to the finding of other homes. Of places where we feel safe, where we grow up.

Home is not Canada for me... neither is Guatemala... is not Toronto, or Waterloo, or zona 18 or zona 14 in La Capital. Home is here, wherever I am, wherever I decide to live, love, and thrive. And therefore, for this year, maybe after many years of not doing so, I'll be home for the holidays.


‡ Rushdie, S. (1994). East, West: stories. New York: Pantheon Books.


CarmenDeBizet said...

Home is something more than walls, more than a piece of land, more than what we were told or taught. I was under the impression until recently that I could always go back to Guatemala and find home, but as you say, I feel at home in Guatemala, but I am not at home. California is home for me, but sometimes I am reminded that even though we have made a home here, there will always be outside forces saying otherwise like that person on TV yelling "Go home!" I find that if I am at home with myself, I can be at home with my loved ones, with my friends, with the people who are not friends or even friendly, with the world. Yeah. I didn't make this comment to sound like some Hallmark card, but hey, it's close to Christmas and that's how I feel about the subject.

CancunCanuck said...

I think many ex-pats feel the same way. The old expression "Home is where the heart is" says it all for me. I haven't called Canada "home" for a few years now, not in my speech nor in my heart. I never say "I haven't been home", I say "I haven't been back to Canada". My home is with Hubby and Max and Lola and Changa (and near the Caribbean Sea). I will be applying for my Mexican citizenship next year if all goes well and I will be dual, a real MexiCanadian.

Manolo said...

Carmencita it must be hard to have a home like California with so many "outside forces" reminding you you don't look from there... even though that was a Spanish colony before the Americans took over it... thanks for you comment, it is a very Hallmark-card type of topic.
Canucka I tried to avoid the phrase, but that was the motif underneath the posting... where the heart is... I hope you can join the club of dual citizens in the new year.

ale said...

Thanks for taking me back to this excellent post that I missed during my non-blogging months! I loved the Rushdie quote, btw.

In a way I am happy that I didn´t read this until posting today, because that way we can prove our "connectedness". Amazing how we can travel similar waters in such different places!

Manolo said...

Ale Like Rudy from LAGDP likes to say: "La Web es una telaraña de relaciones". I believe it applies not only to the people we have encounter along this other branch of our reality but to the threads of experiences across time and space (and this is not just the beer talking) that we all share as your garden variety *professional* snails.